Friday, April 29, 2011

How Far (and Fast) They Fall!

The Nule cousins - not standing so tall anymore. (Photo:
A year ago, the Nules headed an important corporation which was carrying out part of Bogotá's most important infrastructure project: building a Transmilenio express bus line to the airport.

Ivan Moreno on his way to jail.  (Photo: El Pais)
Today, the three Nule cousins who ran the business are in prison, the result of an expanding scandal over alleged kickbacks paid to politicians. One of those who allegedly received kickbacks was Senator Ivan Moreno, one-time Vice-Minister of health and later Minister of Labor, and who also happens to be the little brother of Bogotá Mayor Samuel Moreno. Yesterday, Ivan Moreno was arrested, too, and is now residing in his own jail cell.

El Dorado Ave: the canyon which swallowed the Nules and Morenos.

Counterattack on the Palace.
In 1985  General Jesús Armando Arias Cabrales became a national hero for commanding the retaking of the Justice Palace from the M-19 guerrillas. Today, Armando Arias was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the forced disappearance of a cafeteria employee and a guerrilla who disappeared during the military's counterattack. He is the second military official convicted for human rights violations committed during the retaking of the palace. Others are slated for trial.

Escaping from the Justice Palace. Some of those who came out alive were later found dead.

Sidewalk plaque in memorium to those 'disappeared' in the Justice Palace episode.
Of course, there is a huge irony in the palace episode: a few years after the attack, the M-19 guerrillas demobilized and turned into a political party and today some of the M-19's ex-leaders are in Congress, directly across Plaza Bolívar from the Justice Plaza.

And, in Colombia's highly inbred politics, these two very different episodes have surprising connections. For one, the ex-M-19 guerrillas belong to Morenos' political party, the Polo Democratico Alternativo. And the M-19 was born out of alleged fraud against Colombian-dictator-turned-presidential-candidate Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, who happens to be the Moreno brothers' grandfather.  

These stories are far from finished. One matter is the issue of prison conditions: there've been scandals recently about the pampered conditions in at least one military prison. And the Nules' prison accomodations also caused a stir: the three of them have their own private in-prison house, each with his own bedroom and bath, as well as common areas. That's not only far better than the way ordinary prisoners live, but luxurious compared to the housing of many Colombians outside prison.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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